The BBC pulls from its archives a short film by Don McCullin (and featuring McCullin’s photography) on the growing problem of the homeless in London, in 1989.
It’s worth watching, even twenty-one years after the fact — in part because it suggests strongly that we weren’t paying attention then, because we’re in the same place now.
And I don’t think we’re paying attention now. Technology has brought upon us the age of choose-your-own-news; we see what we want to see. For evidence of that, look to the right on the BBC’s page and see not only the most popular videos, but also the “editor’s choice.”
Time was, newspaper readers consistently preferred photographs of fluffy bunnies, children playing in sprinklers, and scantily clad young women frolicking on the beach. News editors, on the other hand, consistently chose hard-hitting photos that they felt the public needed to see, sensitive dispositions be damned. (Editors also liked shots of scantily clad young women frolicking on the beach, but they usually didn’t mistake them for news.)
Today, readers choose “Plane lands on New Jersey road,” “Pyjamas-wearer on her Tesco ban,” and various hard-hitting items on the Grammy awards and the trials of Brangelina; editors, on the other hand, choose … hard hitting items on the Grammy awards, Brangelina, and some nonsense about a dancing traffic cop.
Watch Don McCullin’s piece instead.